Knights of Columbus host an international initiative by Coats for Kids to provide clothing to impoverished youth

Councils of the Knights of Columbus around the world began their annual Coats for Kids initiative this week, purchasing and distributing hundreds of thousands of coats.

Knights of Columbus Council #12572 — based in Scranton, Pennsylvania — met at the St. Francis of Assisi Kitchen on Friday to begin their local drive. The group was led by KOC State Deputy Michael Kish and Brian Hallock, Master for 4th Degree Knights of the Central District.

“You could go anywhere in the state and find a council that does stuff like that,” Kish said of the wardrobe act.

The cloaks were purchased with the help of the Supreme Council of the Knights of Columbus, which parallels the purchases of cloaks by the local councils.

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Knights of Columbus in Scranton are giving out mantles to the local Catholic charity St. Francis of Assisi Kitchen.
(Fox News (Timothy HJ Nerozzi))

“The goal of the Coats for Kids program is to ensure that no child in North America goes without a coat during the winter season,” the Knights of Columbus say on their website about the initiative. “Through the commitment of councils across the United States and Canada, hundreds of thousands of new winter coats have been distributed to children since the program began.”

After the soup kitchen, the knights made their way along the public Lackawanna River Trail, where homeless encampments are becoming more common. The group of about 12 volunteers marched along jogging trails and under city bridges to distribute winter clothing.

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St. Francis of Assisi Kitchen in Scranton, Pennsylvania
(Fox News (Timothy HJ Nerozzi))

“They call this area ‘Tent City,'” noted Hallock. “Sometimes kids come into the gas station and ask them where they live and they say ‘under the bridge’. It is sad.”

Hallock has been with the KOC for over 12 years. His father, William Hallock, is the Grand Knight of the Council.

The Knights of Columbus were founded in 1882 by Fr. Iichael J. McGivney as a charity missionary group. Pope John Paul II called the group “the strong right arm” of the Catholic Church for its direct involvement in missionary and charity work.

The group gained national prominence around the turn of the century with the motto “Everybody Welcome, Everything Free” to reflect their focus on works of mercy.

The Knights of Columbus are seeing healthy membership growth after the COVID-19 pandemic shut down churches and halted council meetings, Kish says.

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The Scranton Council of the Knights of Columbus walks public paths handing out coats to homeless youth
(Fox News (Timothy HJ Nerozzi))

Kish is supported by his wife, Colleen Kish, who runs a program called ASAP – Post-Pregnancy Assistance and Support. The group offers material and personal support to mothers in need during and after childbirth.

“We have our first birthday in January,” Colleen Kish told Fox News Digital. “We can’t stop helping after they’re born.”

The youngest of Friday’s group was Arthur “Primo” Bobbouine, 15. He has served alongside the Knights of Columbus since childhood.

“You have to be 18 to enter, so I’m just hanging around and helping out,” he told Fox News Digital, waving a KOC logo on his hat. Arthur Bobbouine became a member of the group after his father, the parish manager Art Bobbouine.

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The Scranton Council of the Knights of Columbus walks public paths handing out coats to homeless youth
(Fox News (Timothy HJ Nerozzi))

“I was probably 4 or 5,” Bobbouine said of his start in the group. “I used to help out at dinner.”

Kish says his fathers’ examples of getting children involved in the Knights of Columbus and charity work in general.

“You see their fathers doing this work — the man is the spiritual head of the family,” Kish said. “Being a leader isn’t just about telling people what to do. Part of that is putting them into service to help others. Young men need role models.”

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Graffiti under a bridge on the Lackawanna Trail in Scranton, Pennsylvania
(Fox News (Timothy HJ Nerozzi))

The Knights of Columbus claim 1.7 million members in approximately 14,000 councils around the world. Councils exist in Canada, Poland, Japan and others.

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